Roche vice chair pooh-poohs takeover talk

When one of Roche's founding family members decided last week to break away from the voting bloc and go solo, industry insiders and observers immediately speculated that the Swiss drugmaker might be vulnerable to a takeover. The family bloc had majority voting control of the company before, but now, the group holds only 45 percent of the voting stock.

Some even speculated that Novartis, Roche's crosstown rival, might move in on the company. After all, Novartis already has a third of the voting rights, and it tried to take over the company once already, back in 2004, Reuters reports.

But Roche Vice Chairman Andre Hoffman sought to put those rumors to rest over the weekend. Speaking to the Swiss newspaper SonntagsZeitung, Hoffman poured cold water on the idea of any sale, and specifically on the idea of a sale to Novartis. "Roche will...not be up for sale in the future," Hoffman said. "From our point of view a fusion of Roche and Novartis makes even less sense than it did five or 10 years ago."

Hoffman referred to the two companies' diverging strategies for weathering the patent cliff: Novartis has been diversifying, particularly into eye care and generic drugs, while Roche has entrenched itself in pharma and diagnostics. "That doesn't go together," Hoffman said.

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